February 08, 2013, 8:20 AM —
Image credit: flickr/Official U.S. Navy Imagery
Applications for domestic drone licenses are increasing steadily, even as privacy concerns related to the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over the U.S. continue to mount.
Government documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) show that as of October 2012, 81 public entities had sought licenses from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to operate drones. In fact between August and October, the FAA's drone authorization list grew more than 33%, from 60 applicants to 81 applicants.
Those who have applied for authorization include local police departments, the U.S. State Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, several universities and an Indian tribal agency.
The growing number of drone license applications comes amid mounting privacy and security concerns over their use. Earlier this week, Charlottesville, Va. became the first city in the U.S. to pass a resolution banning drones from its airspace "to the extent compatible with federal law."
The resolution prohibits city agencies from buying, leasing, borrowing or testing drones and provides a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and a fine for up to $10,000 for violators. Charlottesville's anti-drone resolution cites several security and privacy issues as reasons for the ban.
On Wednesday, an anti-drone bill in Florida advanced when the Senate Committee on Community Affairs unanimously approved the measure 9-0. The bill prohibits state law enforcement agencies from using drones to gather evidence or information during investigations. It also prohibits the use of evidence gathered by drones in any criminal prosecution in any court in the state.